This is a late addition to the Patheos Symposium regarding Passing on the Faith. In this symposium, authors from across multiple channels were asked to offer their perspective on educating children in matters of faith.
I’ve never seen myself as good parenting material. Many disagree with me, but I know that I much prefer kids in small doses. Especially when they can go home to someone else’s home at the end of the day. My wife and I have struggled with this because she greatly desires a child, though probably not right at this moment, so one or the other of us will have to adapt our point of view eventually, but I digress.
I was raised Jewish and even those Jews don’t have the same sort of god parenting relationships that Christians do, my parents appointed the best friend of my mother to be my god parent. I’m not completely sure if this was considered to be more of an honor bestowed up on that friend or if my folks truly hoped that she would provide for my religious education in some way, but either way there was an interesting feature of this relationship: my godparent is not Jewish.
While I may not see myself as much of a parent, I can imagine the idea of being someone’s godparent. Which, considering simple population statistics, would likely create the same sort of interfaith relationship. Maybe not; I think it likely that people are more apt to pick a god parent from within their own faith community. But, an informal pole within my circle of Facebook friends this morning revealed two other interfaith god parenting relationships: a Hindu/Christian relationship and a Christian/Jewish one. In the case of the former, my friend indicated that her parents thought it was the “American thing to do!” So, while perhaps unlikely, it’s at least possible, and considering the religious landscape of America, perhaps more likely than we would think.
I don’t have any hang ups about passing on a parent’s faith to their children as long as those same parents are willing to accept that the child, upon becoming an adult, may choose another path than theirs. The agency of the parents must not subsume the agency of the child, in other words.
As a god parent, I think it would be incumbent upon me to not only help the child to understand the spirituality and/or religion of their parents but to at least inform them of my own. Indeed, before accepting the honor of the relationship with someone else, I think it would be important that I and the parents fully understand that which they ask of me and what I would hope might grow from the relationship. In other words: I think I would probably take it more seriously than others.
But then again, I suspect that many of us here at Patheos, Pagan and not, take our spiritual practices and relationships fairly seriously.